Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
(GERD, Acid Reflux, Heartburn)

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GERD facts

  • GERD (acid reflux) is a condition in which the acidified liquid content of the stomach backs up into the esophagus.
  • The causes of GERD include an abnormal lower esophageal sphincter, hiatal hernia, abnormal esophageal contractions, and slow emptying of the stomach.
  • GERD may damage the lining of the esophagus, thereby causing inflammation (esophagitis), although usually it does not.
  • The symptoms of uncomplicated GERD are heartburn, regurgitation, and nausea.
  • Complications of GERD include ulcers and strictures of the esophagus, Barrett's esophagus, cough and asthma, throat and laryngeal inflammation, inflammation and infection of the lungs, and collection of fluid in the sinuses and middle ear.
  • Barrett's esophagus is a pre-cancerous condition that may require periodic endoscopic surveillance for the development of cancer.
  • GERD may be diagnosed or evaluated by a trial of treatment, endoscopy, biopsy, X-ray, examination of the throat and larynx, 24 hour esophageal acid testing, esophageal motility testing, emptying studies of the stomach, and esophageal acid perfusion.
  • GERD is treated with life-style changes, diet, antacids, histamine antagonists (H2 blockers), proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), pro-motility drugs, foam barriers, surgery, and endoscopy.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2013

Patient Comments

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GERD - Proton Pump Inhibitors Question: If your GERD symptoms were not relieved by treatment with proton pump inhibitors, did you find other effective treatments?
GERD - Diet Question: What diet and lifestyle changes have you made to improve your GERD and heartburn?
GERD - Causes Question: Do you know what caused your GERD? Please discuss your experience with GERD.
GERD - Complications Question: Did you experience any complications with your GERD? What were they?
GERD - Diagnosis Question: How did your doctors arrive at a diagnosis of GERD?
GERD - Treatment Question: What types of treatment or medication have you received for GERD? What's worked and what hasn't?
Man with GERD condition

Barrett's Esophagus Symptoms

Barrett's Esophagus is a severe and long lasting GERD

Barrett's esophagus has no unique symptoms. Patients with Barrett's have the symptoms of GERD (for example, heartburn, regurgitation, nausea, etc.). The general trend is for individuals with Barrett's have more severe GERD. However, not all Barrett's have marked symptoms of GERD, and some patients are detected accidentally with minimal or no symptoms of GERD.

  • Heartburn is a burning sensation behind the breastbone, usually in the lower half, but may extend all the way up to the throat. Sometimes, it is accompanied by burning or pain in the pit of the stomach just below where the breastbone ends.
  • Regurgitation (backup) of bitter tasting fluid is another common symptom.

The refluxed, regurgitated fluid occasionally may enter the lungs or the voice box, resulting in what are called extraesophageal symptoms of GERD. These symptoms include:

  • new onset adult asthma,
  • frequent bronchitis,
  • chronic cough,
  • sore throats, and
  • hoarseness.